Sony Alpha SLT-A55 review articleThe initial step in taking a photo would be to point the camera in the correct direction. But to understand what that correct direction is, you need a viewfinder. The problem with designing a viewfinder is the fact that the lens on the camera is situated in front of the image sensor, so it is difficult to obtain your eye straight behind the lens.
SLRs get around this problem by using a flip-up mirror to bounce light into the optical viewfinder. Most digital cameras, although, merely use the LCD screen on the back with the camera to show the current framing.
The distinction in between the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 and any camera that’s come prior to, is the fact that Sony has placed a translucent mirror in front of the image sensor. It doesn’t move, like the mirror in an SLR, and because it’s mostly transparent, the bulk of the light coming via the lens passes on to the sensor. A tiny bit, although, gets bounced upward towards the camera’s autofocus sensors. The practical upshot of this really is that the camera can do what few SLRs can: continuously autofocus in Live View mode. When shooting video, this makes for a camera that handles like a point-and-shoot, but that offers the flexibility and superior image quality of an SLR.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 is really a concerning the same size as competing mid-range digital SLRs. Small and lightweight, the camera is sturdily constructed, and offers a secure grip and well-designed interface. A large rear-mounted LCD screen flips out from the back of the camera. You can spin it around to match it flush with the camera’s back, or tilt it up or down. It’s hinged at the bottom, instead of the side, but it nonetheless offers all the range of motion you’ll need for above-the-head or waist-level shooting.
Sony Alpha SLT-A55
For self-portraits, the only way to face the screen forward would be to tilt it so that it sticks straight down, beneath the camera. If you mount the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 camera on a tripod, you may not be able to see the screen when it’s sticking straight down. A proximity detector automatically switches from the rear LCD to the eye-level electronic viewfinder whenever you raise the camera to your eye, and also the A55′s electronic viewfinder is extremely great, providing a big, bright, clear view of one’s scene.
Sony has added a truly cool real-time level within the Sony Alpha SLT-A55′s viewfinder. As the camera tilts, a virtual horizon line shows you whether or not you are level or not. Handy and non-obtrusive, the level doesn’t get within the way with the rest with the status info. All that said, I’m not a fan of electronic viewfinders, merely simply because their dynamic range is restricted by the camera’s sensor. So, in the event you want to be able to see details in each bright highlights and deep shadows when you’re composing, you’ll be out of luck. This really is an essential consideration when weighing this camera against a traditional SLR.
As with other Sony cameras, the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 consists of a stabilized sensor, which means that any of Sony’s excellent lenses will deliver stabilized imagery. The A55 is compatiable with Sony’s ? lenses, Minolta lenses, and Konica Minolta AF lenses. There is an in-camera pop-up flash, as well as an iISO hot shoe mount if you’d like to use an external flash. As with other Sony DSLRs, the proprietary hot shoe mount functions with Sony and Minolta products, but an adapter can be bought separately if you’d prefer to turn it into a regular mount to use it with Nikon, Canon, Pentax, or Olympus accessories.
Because the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 doesn’t need to move a mirror around, Sony has been in a position to get an outstanding ten frame-per-second burst rate out of the camera. It’s continuously autofocusing in this mode, so fast moving subjects stay sharp. In addition to giving you a tremendous advantage when shooting sports, animals, and other fast-moving subjects, the A55′s burst speed allows some other handy functions. The camera’s Sweep Panorama feature permits you to shoot stitched panoramic pictures by simply holding down the shutter button while panning across a scene. The camera automatically captures overlapping images and stitches them with each other, and the outcomes are extremely great. No trip to Photoshop or other image editor is needed.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 also offers a multi-frame noise reduction function. If you are in low light, and are worried about your pictures being too noisy, this feature allows you to shoot a burst of images. The camera then combines them to produce a low-noise result. Because of the camera’s high burst rate, you are able to rattle off a few shots extremely quickly, giving you a better chance of shooting images in close registration.
Whilst ten frames per second might not be that large a deal to photographers used to high-end, pro-level cameras, to get such speed at this price point is an actual breakthrough for those who want speedy shooting.
Settings and controls
The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 offers a full complement of auto and manual modes. Complete car, program, priority and manual modes are all accessible from the top-mounted mode dial, and controlling exposure parameters is easy and intuitive. The A55 does extremely well in low light, as much as around ISO 6400. Following that, things get fairly noisy, but Sony has included their unique multi-shot noise reduction feature, which shoots multiple pictures, after which combines them to reduce noise.
Surprisingly, the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 lacks any kind of System Shift function, for cycling via reciprocal exposures in Program mode. This is a great way to preserve some manual manage whilst shooting in Program, and is sorely missed on the A55.
The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 shoots full 1080p AVCHD video, and shooting video with this camera is a lot simpler than with any digital SLR. Simply because the camera can continuously autofocus whilst shooting video, you don’t need to worry about how you or your topic moves whilst rolling video. The camera’s fast autofocus mechanism will maintain your scene in concentrate, even during difficult camera movements. Sony has wisely included an external mic jack, since handling the camera whilst shooting video generates lots of hand-holding noise.
Image and video tests
The Sony Alpha SLT-A55 received impressively high ratings in our lab’s subjective image and video tests. We tested it alongside the Sony A580 and Nikon D3100 DSLRs. The A55′s scores were extremely close towards the A580, and it did slightly much better than the D3100. It received word scores of Very Great for exposure, colour, and sharpness, but only a good for distortion (the one category exactly where the A580 did noticeably much better).
The video quality on the Sony Alpha SLT-A55 was 1 of the best we’ve seen on an interchangable lens camera in the past year, particularly in bright light, earning a word score of Superior. Watch the sample clips from our subjective video tests (for both bright light and low light) beneath. Select 1080p within the drop-down menu in the lower-right corner of each player to determine each clip at maximum resolution.
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